A headache can vary greatly in its duration from a few short sharp seconds to days. The cause of a headache could be due to many things such as dehydration or an illness. Whatever the cause they usually go away once the cause is resolved, for example, a headache only lasts a few hours and a headache associated with an illness will go once you start to feel better.
A migraine isn’t just a more powerful headache, it is a type of headache disorder which is the third most common condition in the world.
Whilst some people may think a migraine is just a severe headache it is actually a chronic condition that can impact greatly on your life and can also lead to other conditions such as depression and anxiety. A migraine will often, but not always, affect only one side of the head, feel pulsating and can be aggravated by routine activity including noise and light.
Migraines can also be associated with other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting or tingling sensations and loss of vision or visual disturbances. It can affect everything that you do; sleeping, reading, relaxing, driving, working and socialising and can last anything from 4 to 72 hours.
Migraines are triggered by some things you would expect, like caffeine and alcohol, but also things that wouldn’t expect such as like lighting, loud noises or certain foods. For some people migraine pain can be very severe. They may occur between once a year to once a week.
What to do if you get regular headaches
If you get regular headaches, whether you know that they are headaches or migraines or not, it is important that you speak to your GP to get a proper diagnosis. A headache may be just that, but it may also be a sign of another condition or side effect of a medication. Keep a headache diary and take this along with you to your GP visit so that they have as much information about the type and frequency of your headaches to be able to make a proper diagnosis.
It is reassuring to know that with migraine being the third most common condition in the world, you’re certainly not alone, and while there is no magic cure, there are certainly ways you can reduce your symptoms.
While almost half of the adult population have had a headache at least once within the last year, for those people with migraines, the approach to being rid of your headache differs slightly. This is because a migraine isn’t simply a bad headache.
Causes of migraines
A migraine is usually triggered by one of the following common factors:
- Sleep – too much or too little
- Hormonal changes in women
- Computer screens
- Exercise – usually vigorous or irregular
- Changes in environment such as lighting, loud noises, high humidity
- Certain foods like chocolate and cheese and even some food additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Skipping meals and dehydration
You may have completely different triggers and in many cases, you will know what they are. Interestingly a lesser known trigger is simply a change in routine. This is why for some the holiday season can be so problematic. For example, what may sound like an idyllic retreat could result in fatigue from a long car journey, a change in sleeping habits and a different diet with a few more drinks than you’re used to. The culmination of all these factors puts you at a much-increased risk of developing a migraine.
What to do when you get a migraine
Once a migraine strikes, you should firstly try to remove yourself from the trigger. Many people find that they need to go lie down in a darkened room. However, not everyone has a painful headache – some people just experience nausea and visual disturbances. But if pain is your primary concern, then there are many painkillers available over the counter; paracetamol and ibuprofen can be effective at reducing symptoms when taken at the first sign of a migraine.
But it’s not all bad news; there are a number of things you can do to ensure you have a clear head this year. Doc
- Begin by keeping a migraine diary to track what your triggers are. Once you know what causes your migraine, you can try to avoid the trigger in future, and if chocolate isn’t one of your triggers then there is no need to pass on the sweet treats
- Staying hydrated is great for general health and can also help to relieve migraine
- Switch up your alcoholic drinks with some alcohol-free mocktails to limit your alcohol intake while still enjoying the party
- Consider migraine treatments. Visit the LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor migraine clinic for more information or to start a consultation
- Exercise can be a trigger for some people. However regular exercise which is built up gently can help to prevent migraine. Exercise stimulates the release of our body’s natural painkillers, as well as increasing the individual’s sense of well-being and general health
Keep a diary, identify and avoid your triggers and act quickly if a migraine starts.